Battambang provincial police are urging the provincial governor to shut down all brothels in the province, police said Wednesday, just days after 14 prostitutes were rescued in a brothel raid.
Seng Son, police chief of the Battambang provincial anti-human trafficking office, said police sent an appeal to Governor Prach Chan on Monday, calling for the closure of some 143 brothels in the province.
“If we can eliminate the brothels, we can reduce crimes, gangsters, drug use, and especially the AIDS epidemic,” Seng Son said.
On Monday, Battambang provincial police arrested one woman and rescued four Cambodian and 10 Vietnamese prostitutes, aged 17 to 23, after the parents of two of the Cambodian women filed a complaint with the Ministry of Interior, Seng Son said.
“Two of the girls said the pimp detained them and forced them to have sex with customers,” he said.
The suspected pimp, a Vietnamese woman named Ngeang Thihoeurng, 32, is in jail and could face between five years and 10 years in prison if convicted, Chief Prosecutor Yam Yeth said Wednesday.
Seng Son said, however, the other prostitutes told him they were not detained or forced to have sex with customers. The girls said the two who complained were angry at Ngeang Thihoeurng because she wouldn’t lend them money to support their drug habit and tried to convince them not to leave the brothel, which was purported to be a karaoke parlor, Seng Son said.
The anti-trafficking NGO Afesip helped to file a complaint on behalf of the two Cambodian girls at the Ministry of Interior earlier this week, after the victims’ parents came to Phnom Penh asking for help, national coordinator Thearom Nuon said.
All 14 girls arrived at Afesip’s Siem Reap compound on Wednesday, he said, and will receive clothes, housing, medical treatment and vocational training there.
Sex trafficking is on the rise because the authorities fail to arrest offenders, Thearom Nuon said. And even if they are arrested, he said, they are often not convicted.
“Sometimes when police arrest offenders and they are brought to court, the court releases them,” he said.
On Tuesday, the US State Department released a report that blamed endemic corruption and an ineffectual judicial system for hampering the fight against human trafficking in Cambodia.
On Wednesday, Seng Son said Battambang province is a crossroads where victims are being trafficked to Thailand to serve as prostitutes. He said Battambang has about 1,000 prostitutes.
Governor Prach Chan on Wednesday said he had not yet received the police’s appeal to shut down the brothels, but would consider their proposal.
“[We] hope to reduce the number of brothels” in the province, he said.